There will be no pay parking at the new Campbell River Hospital if the city gets its way.
Council, at its Monday meeting, voted unanimously to adopt a bylaw amendment that prohibits parking fees on any land zoned Public Areas One – a designation that is applied to the new hospital site.
The decision elicited a round of applause from members of the Campbell River Citizens for Quality Healthcare group who were present in council chambers Monday night.
“I knew you wouldn’t be able to resist,” Mayor Andy Adams said.
The group has been fighting against pay parking since Island Health announced in 2015 its intention to charge for parking at new hospitals in both Campbell River and the Comox Valley.
The healthcare group has even questioned the legality of charging for parking, citing the Canada Health Act which states that the Act exists to “…facilitate reasonable access to health services without financial or other barriers.”
The group claimed that parking fees are a financial barrier and therefore violate the Canada Health Act. The region’s hospital board, which is comprised of elected officials from the Comox Valley and Strathcona regional districts, agreed that pay parking would be a detriment to North Islanders and backed the pursuit of a pay parking ban.
On Monday, Campbell River council followed through after previously giving first two readings and holding a public hearing on the zoning amendment which will prohibit parking fees on not only the new hospital site but other Public Area One zones throughout the city which include all schools, churches, the Sportsplex, museum, Robron Park, RCMP station, Strathcona Gardens, most city parks and other health, social and educational uses.
Mayor Adams credited Coun. Larry Samson for moving the issue forward.
“I want to thank Councillor Samson for his due diligence and for keeping on top of this particular item,” Adams said. “So, Councillor Samson, on behalf of council, thank you.”
It was Samson who first raised the possibility of local government stopping the implementation of hospital parking through a zoning bylaw, similar to what the municipality of Delta had already done.
The city then received legal advice in drawing up the zoning amendment, Despite that, city staff has warned council that it could still be appealed.
“Enforcement of the zoning bylaw parking provisions may result in a legal challenge,” Kevin Brooks, the city’s development services supervisor, told council last month. “It is estimated that this could cost the city $20,000 or greater in legal fees.”
Island Health said it intended to charge for hospital parking in order to pay for parking lot management, maintenance and security instead of diverting money for patient care towards those services.The new $274.5 million, 95-bed Campbell River Hospital is expected to open this fall next to the existing building.